From the words of the famous author Lawrence Westfall, autism is not a disability, it is a different ability and every month of April we celebrate the National Autism Awareness Month to educate more people and increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism.
Autism is a developmental condition that makes both verbal and non-verbal communication more difficult. It is not a mental health condition, it is spurred by changes in a child’s brain.
Symptoms may range on the spectrum and autism may look a little different in every child or person but people with autism also have feelings — it’s just the way they express these feelings that differ. This is why there is a constant need to raise awareness and educate families.
Here in Cebu, the art group, Sugid Alampat is one of the advocates to encourage acceptance and compassion towards the spectrum.
Through an art exhibit for a cause that begun last April 10, Sugid Alampat brings “SpeakTrum” to the digital space on Facebook until April 30.
With the question, “how do we establish an identity characterized by adherence to social norms when the pervasive forms of stigma and exclusion persist?” Sugid Alampat aims to give answers through their pieces in the SpeakTrum exhibit.
Sugid Alampat believes that autism hitherto has been subjected to marginalization and that neurodiverse individuals are faced with daunting challenges within different social spaces.
Through the project SpeakTrum — a portmanteau of the words speak and spectrum, which represents the demand to amplify awareness to autism spectrum disorder and other related disorders, the art pieces seek to foster inclusion and equality in the diversity of the spectrum.
The artists collectively reiterate the necessity to educate and provide a welcoming environment to the spectrum. Through the use of vivid colors, artists celebrate the unique traits of autism spearheaded by blues accentuating the light it up blue campaign.
According to Sugid Alampat’s head artist Kean Larrazabal, art is an instrument to help people better understand and accept what is autism.
“The reason that we wanted to make this exhibit happen is because, April is Autism Month and only a few people have knowledge about it. Making this show is about giving awareness and as well as to support organizations and individuals with ASD, “ he added.
The participating artists are all members of Sugid Alampat which is a group established by young artists in Cebu who share the love for storytelling through visual arts.
The group’s main mission is to encourage the youth to lean towards art as a form of self-expression.
They also aim to give opportunities to celebrate what they value or contemplate perspectives that are different from our own in a non-confrontational way.
The exhibit is for the benefit of Autism Family Support Group and Stand for Autism- Cebu. Two groups aim to educate the families as well as the society about Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD).
Stand for Autism-Cebu, a new group founded by Prof. Grace Gay Cabellon and co-founded by Prof. Junas Flores aims to educated the society about ASD in the hopes of pushing government and non-government sectors to create an inclusive Cebu for people with ASD.
As a mother of a child with autism, Cabellon shares that joining forces with art group Sugid Alampat aims to show that people with ASD are human beings in need of a more accepting and loving world.
Josie Ortiz, who heads the Autism Support Group and a mother of a teenager with ASD have devoted her time and efforts by conducting trainings for families and teachers.
As a parent and an autism advocate, Ortiz shares that she is thankful to Stand For Autism- Cebu and Sugid Alampat for the project because it gives a very good opportunity through God given talents like arts, to be able to spread education and awareness for kids with autism.
When asked what her messaged for the community is, Ortiz shares: “May you show acceptance by giving compassion to our autistic kids and families. If you see a child with special needs alone and lost, please help in keeping them safe and finding their loving parents. If you see a parent having great challenges with their child crying or having tantrums in public, don’t judge and politely offer any support and assistance instead. Try to build friendships with our kids. They would love to have friends and be included.”
Ortiz also encourages parents with autism children to join their free parent’s coaching in Autism Family Support Group on Facebook.
For Ortiz, children with autism may have some limitations, but they also have the purest love in their hearts.
Part of the proceeds will help parents to be trained and coached on how to help their kids at home especially nowadays that we are in a very limiting times.